GOP hypocrisy and impeachment hearings: Lindsey Graham and Devin Nunes once sang different tunes

Graham and Nunes had very different outlook on impeachment and conspiracy theories when Democrats were in power

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 22, 2019 6:00AM (EST)

Rep. Devin Nunes and Sen. Lindsey Graham (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rep. Devin Nunes and Sen. Lindsey Graham (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A video showing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during the Clinton impeachment proceedings resurfaced this week, illustrating how the Judiciary Committee chairman has reversed his stance on impeachment now that that an inquiry has been activated into President Donald Trump.

Graham, an ardent ally of President Trump, sponsored a resolution that has been co-signed by all but three Senate Republicans decrying the House impeachment probe. He told Fox News host Sean Hannity in October that any articles of impeachment against Trump should be “dismissed in the Senate without a trial.” He also called the impeachment inquiry proceedings a “lynching in every sense.”

The video from 1998, when Graham was one of the Republican House members pushing to impeach President Bill Clinton, shows that Graham was once staunchly against members of Congress dismissing impeachment before seeing all of the facts.

"Some people have said, 'I won't vote for impeachment.' Some House members have said, 'I will not vote for an impeachment,'" Graham said at the time. "Let me tell you, please don't say that until you understand what you're voting on."

"Members of the Senate have said, 'I understand everything there is about this case, and I won't vote to impeach the president.' Please allow the facts to do the talking,” he continued. "Nobody knows what the articles of impeachment are. People have made up their mind in a political fashion that will hurt this country long term."

He concluded with a plea: “If you can't vote for impeachment, give us the due justice to the case. Don't decide the case before the case is in. And this bothers me greatly."

The comments are in stark contrast to what Graham told Hannity last month about the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump.

"What's happening in the House is basically un-American," he said in October. “I don’t want to legitimize it … I would like Republicans to say, 'This is a bunch of garbage.’"

It’s not the first time that comments Graham made during the Clinton impeachment have come back to haunt him.

After Graham defended Trump for issuing a blanket refusal to comply with any congressional subpoenas, a clip resurfaced of the senator decrying the Clinton administration for not complying with House subpoenas.

“When asked for information, Richard Nixon chose not to comply and the Congress back in that time said you're taking impeachment away from us," Graham said in 1998. "The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is that day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury."

And Graham isn't the only Republican whose past comments sound very different in light of the Trump impeachment hearings. Earlier this week, Politico reporter Ryan Lizza re-published an excerpt of an interview he conducted with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has turned the Trump impeachment hearings into a forum for right-wing conspiracy theories, as he did with the House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“This may surprise people who only know Devin Nunes’s recent record, but in late 2015 Nunes told me during a long interview in his office that he was extremely concerned about the rise of conspiracy theorists in the Republican Party,” Lizza tweeted.

The interview showed Nunes complaining that he used to get messages from constituents about policy details, with only a small number of them referring to every “conspiracy theory that’s out there.”

“That has essentially flipped on its head,” Nunes lamented, explaining that few constituents now send mail “based on something that is mostly true.”

“It’s dramatically changed politics and politicians, and what they’re doing,” he said.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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